Sex offender list
may expand

Lawmakers work on a bill
that sets guidelines for public
access to information online

After Florida 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered by a convicted sex offender, parents were urged to check their state's sex offender registry on the Internet.

But Hawaii's online registry is far from complete with a mere 73 sex offenders posted. About 1,900 other sex offenders are not listed on the Web site.

The state's Web site has been limited since 2001, when the state Supreme Court declared Hawaii's version of "Megan's Law" was unconstitutional. The federal law requiring community notification of convicted sex offenders was named after a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who was abducted, raped and killed.

But the names, photos, and addresses of those convicted of the most serious and violent sex offenses may be available to anyone with a computer.

State lawmakers will be tweaking Senate Bill 708, Senate Draft 2, House Draft 2 tomorrow. The bill sets guidelines on which sex offenders will be automatically placed on the state's online registry and for how long.

Currently, the state must go to court to put a sex offender on the Internet. The bills in conference committee will put the burden on the sex offender to be removed from the public registry. They would also create two registries -- one for sex offenders and one for offenders against children.

Last year, voters passed a constitutional amendment that states the public has a right of access to registration information regarding persons convicted of certain offenses against children and of certain sexual offenses. The amendment nullifies the state Supreme Court decision.

Sen. Colleen Hanabusa, chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs committee, said the latest bill has a good chance of passing.

"It strikes an excellent balance between guaranteeing civil rights and the right of the community," she said. She points out the registry is not part of the penalty the convicted felon must pay but rather it's about the citizens' right to know about their communities.

Unlike other criminals who serve their terms and are freed, there is the belief that "sex offenders are not cured," and that the public has a right to know where they live and work to protect the public, Hanabusa said.

Information on the most serious offenders would be available to anyone on the Internet or at the Hawaii criminal justice data center at one or more designated police stations. But those convicted of only one misdemeanor sexual offense or crime against children would not be subject to public access.

Information on some people convicted of lesser felonies or misdemeanors would only be available at terminals at police stations or the criminal justice data center.

"We're not asking the Legislature to grant hearings in every case," said Public Defender Jack Tonaki, who agreed those such as serial or violent sex offenders automatically be placed on the Internet registry.

But there are those on the lower end of the scale whose crimes lacked violence, who should be allowed to have a hearing before a judge to determine whether their information is published on the Internet, Tonaki said.

A woman in one local family hurt by sex abuse testified against the bill, saying that to publicize this information would subject her family and children to ostracism, Tonaki said.

"The family had undergone counseling and reunification and were trying to work through these issues, and that this would cause great shame and embarrassment," he said.

The online registry will include the sex offender's photo, home and business addresses, offenses, vehicles owned or operated and any school he is affiliated with.

Convicted sex offenders are required to provide that information to law enforcement.

A convicted sex offender who allegedly raped an 85-year-old Kaimuki woman March 12 lived down the street from her and failed to update his address.

Hawaii Sex Offender Registry

E-mail to City Desk


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